Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 350 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 07/04/2024

Project Features

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"The water from the spring has made me suffer from typhoid on many occasions, and this had resulted in spending more money on medication," said 27-year-old farmer Carolyne Masava, a resident of Mahira.

Along with 350 of her fellow community members, Carolyne depends on Mukalama spring for all of her daily water needs. But as the spring is unprotected, it is not meeting those needs.

The challenges at Mukalama Spring in Mahira are many. First and foremost, Mukalama Spring is open to contamination. As Carolyne noted, consuming the contaminated spring water leads to water-related sicknesses among community members. Cases of diarrhea and typhoid are widespread and frequent, but grow worse in the rainy season when the rains pour extra dirty surface runoff into the spring. The runoff carries with it farm chemicals and animal waste.

There is a chlorine dispenser at the spring, but it is not always stocked, and some community members forget to use it in their rush to get back home to start their other work. The money that community members have to spend seeking medical treatment for their water-related diseases could otherwise be spent on more productive endeavors at home, on the farm, and on school fees for their children.

The road leading to the spring is fairly done, but the immediate environment around the spring is bushy and the drainage is very poor. People have to step into several inches of muddy water as they try to reach the discharge area, not knowing what could lie beneath the water's surface such as snakes, worms, or other dangerous animals. The access area is slippery, and mothers cannot send their youngest children to help fetch water for fear they will drown in the large pool of water. This puts even more strain on the women and older children, as men typically do not fetch water here.

At one point, the community tried to protect their spring but without all of the necessary materials or technical knowledge to do so properly. All that is left of their efforts is a pipe stuck in a small outcropping of cement, but above it, the spring's source remains completely open to the environment. This is why their water remains contaminated. Because the pieces of past work do not fully capture the spring's output, the yield is not as strong as it could be.

As a result, community members crowd at the unprotected spring to draw water. Occasionally people will engage in physical fights over who is to draw water first, as the entire process is time-consuming and frustrating.

"The people from this community make long queues to draw water from the unprotected spring. Sometimes children are pushed aside by the adults in order to draw water first," explained young primary school student Brian.

All of this time lost at the spring could be better spent on other productive activities, including homework for children. And the crowds are especially concerning during the pandemic, when people are trying to avoid groups and limit their time spent in public.

What We Can Do:

Spring Protection

Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.

Fetching water is a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More

To hold trainings during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training who will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.

The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.

With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points where they can alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as water is flowing.

Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.

One of the most important issues we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We and the community strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.

We will then conduct a small series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the operations and maintenance of the spring. The committee will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.

Sanitation Platforms

At the end of the training, participants will select 5 families that should benefit from new concrete latrine floors called sanitation platforms. Training will inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, including bricks, clean sand, and gravel.

The 5 families chosen for sanitation platforms must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. Our trainers then instruct them on how to build superstructures over their new platforms. These 5 sanitation platforms will serve as examples for the rest of the community to replicate.

All community members must work together to make sure that they continuously provide accommodations and food for the work teams throughout all stages of spring and sanitation platform construction.

Project Updates

February, 2021: Mukalama Spring Project Complete!

Mahira Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Mukalama Spring into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. Our team protected the spring, constructed five sanitation platforms for different households in the community, and trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention.

"At the moment, I am one-hundred percent sure this water is safe for human consumption. Before protection, the spring box was open to all contamination sources, and my family would suffer from waterborne diseases. I am now at peace because I will not spend money on medication treating them," said Margaret Mwanje.

"I am planning to start planting vegetables that I will supply to schools around my community. Since our spring is not seasonal, we shall have vegetables throughout the year because I will use the water for irrigation," she added.

Field Officer Betty celebrates the completed spring

Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.

"Before the spring was protected, I used to waste a lot of time queueing at the spring. Now that the spring is well protected and the discharge is high, I will not waste my time again. Instead, I will help my parents back at home," said teenager Philip.

"My father has one fish pond near the spring. Since we are sure of safe and clean water, we shall put up more fish ponds that will help my parents pay my school fees, enabling me to be at school throughout the year. This will also improve my academic performance."

Preparing for Spring Protection

Community members worked together to source and carry all locally available construction materials to the spring. These included bricks, sand, stones, and fencing poles. Some people also chiseled away at large stones to break them down into gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the materials collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

Community members of all ages pitched in however they could to help bring materials to the spring site.

When everything was prepared, we sent a lorry to the community to deliver the rest of the construction materials, including the cement, plastic tarps, and hardware. Then, our artisan and field officers deployed to the spring to begin work. Individual households provided meals throughout each day to sustain the work team.

From Open Source to Protected Spring: A Step-by-Step Process

At last, it was time to dig in at the spring! Women and men lent their strength to the artisan each day to help with the manual labor. First, we cleared and excavated the spring area, careful to leave undisturbed indigenous and water-friendly trees. We dug a drainage channel below the spring and several surface runoff diversion channels above and around the spring. These help to divert environmental contaminants carried by the rains away from the spring.


To ensure community members could still fetch water throughout the construction process, we also dug temporary diversion channels from the spring’s eye around the construction site. This allowed water to flow without severely disrupting community members’ water needs or the construction work.

Brickwork begins on top of the foundation.

Excavation created space for setting the spring’s foundation made of thick plastic tarp, wire mesh, concrete, and waterproof cement. After setting the base, we started brickwork to build the headwall, wing walls, and stairs.

Wall and stairs construction

Next, we began one of the most crucial spring protection steps to ensure a fully functional water point: setting the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe has to be low enough in the headwall so that the water level inside never rises above the spring’s eye, yet high enough to leave eighteen to twenty inches between the pipe and the spring floor to allow room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact.

Setting the pipe

If the discharge pipe were placed too high above the spring’s eye, too much backpressure could force the flow to emerge elsewhere. Too low, and community members would not be able to access the water easily. We embedded the pipe using clay (or mortar when the clay is in short supply) and placed it at a slight incline to ensure water flows in the right direction.

Plastering the stone pitching into place to form the rub walls

In coordination with brickwork, we pitched medium to large stones on both sides of the spring’s drainage channel. We then cemented and plastered each stone group into place, forming the rub walls. These help to discourage people and animals from trying to stand on that area, which could cause soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.


With brickwork and stone pitching completed, we turned to cementing and plastering both sides of the headwall and wing walls. These finishing layers reinforce the brickwork and prevent water in the reservoir from seeping through the walls. In turn, enough pressure builds in the reservoir box to push water out through the discharge pipe.

Setting the tiles

As the headwall and wing walls were curing, we cemented and plastered the stairs and installed four tiles beneath the discharge pipe. The tiles protect the concrete from the falling water's erosive force while also beautifying the spring and facilitating easy cleaning of the spring floor.

Backfilling with clay

We transitioned to the final stages of construction with the tiles in place - backfilling the reservoir box. First, we cleared the collection box of any debris that may have fallen in since its construction, such as dead leaves or other items. Then we redirected the temporary diversion channels back into the reservoir box, channeling water into this area for the first time. We closed off all of the other exits to start forcing the water through the discharge pipe only.

Backfilling with large stones

With much help from the community, we filled up the reservoir area with the clean and large stones they gathered, arranging them in layers like a well-fitting puzzle. We covered the stones with a thick plastic tarp to minimize potential contamination sources from aboveground, followed by a layer of soil. We piled enough soil on top to create a slight mound to compensate for the backfill’s future settlement.

Backfilling with soil over tarp and stone layers

Community members transplanted grass onto the backfilled soil to help prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced to discourage any person or animal from walking on it since compaction can lead to disturbances in the backfill layers and potentially compromise water quality.

Planting grass inside the fencing

The entire construction process took about two weeks of work and patience to allow the cement and plaster to finish curing. As soon as it was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to fetch water.

Women celebrate and pose at the spring after fetching water.

We officially handed over the spring directly following training to mark the community's ownership of the water point. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.

Some of the community members gathered at the spring with their local pastor, who thanked God for the project well done and completed peacefully on behalf of everyone. Thereafter the lead staff for the project handed it over to the water user committee and community.

Dancing to celebrate the completed spring

Sanitation Platforms

We completed all five sanitation platforms and handed them over to their new owners. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine of their own and are optimistic that people will no longer leave waste outdoors. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors, and for other families to replicate the design after having helped construct these examples.

Posing with a new sanitation platform

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19 and More

Due to the ongoing challenges and restrictions amidst the pandemic, we worked with both local leaders and the national Ministry of Health to gain approval for a small group training about health, hygiene, and COVID-19 prevention.

Together with the community, we found their preferred date for training while considering other community calendar events, such as the agricultural season and social events. We requested a select yet representative group of community members to attend training, relaying the information learned to the rest of their family and friends. When the day arrived, facilitators Betty Muhongo and Rose Serete deployed to the site to lead the event.

Handwashing session

14 people attended training, including local leaders and the area's Community Health Volunteer. We held the training near the spring because there was enough space for participants to observe physical distancing. The venue was also convenient for practical sessions at the spring and ones that required water. While more people wanted to attend training, we had to keep the group to a minimum due to local restrictions.

Handwashing demonstration

Perhaps the most important topic of the day was our session on COVID-19 prevention and control. Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the virus and provide extra information where needed. We also left behind a rice sack painted with messages of COVID-19 prevention reminders in the local language. We affixed the sign to the spring's fence during training and encouraged community members to use it as a daily reminder to stay cautious both at home and at the spring.

Homemade mask-making session

"I have acquired skills to fabricate masks locally. In the past, I spent a lot of money to ensure that my family had masks. I will now use this gained knowledge to make masks for my family. I will also sell the extra ones to make money for use and meeting the family needs," said Joshua Malova, a farmer in the community.

Masks on at training

We covered several other topics, including community participation in the project; leadership and governance; personal and environmental hygiene; water handling and treatment; operation and maintenance of the spring and sanitation platforms; dental hygiene; the ten steps of handwashing, and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin. We held an election for the newly formed water user committee leaders during the leadership and governance session.

The elected water user committee leaders

We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start both a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.

One of the most memorable topics was spring maintenance. After discussing and demonstrating the required actions to keep the spring regularly cleaned and functional, the water user committee made a plan. Together with the group, they came up with a duty roster assigning families a particular week to take up cleaning responsibilities. Failure to do so, they determined, would result in the group fining that family a fee of 500 Kenya shillings (~$5) that would be used to hire another family to do the work.

The Community Health Volunteer (standing) speaks to the training group.

"The training has been so essential to my family and me. In the past, I used to cook any food I came across without considering a balanced diet. Still, now I will ensure that my family is well-fed," said Violet Lusweti, referring to the personal health and nutrition lesson of training.

When an issue arises concerning the water project, the water user committee is equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our field officers' team to assist them. Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

January, 2021: Mahira Community, Mukalama Spring Project Underway!

Dirty water from Mukalama Spring is making people in Mahira sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with news of success!

Project Photos

Project Type

Springs are water sources that come from deep underground, where the water is filtered through natural layers until it is clean enough to drink. Once the water pushes through the surface of the Earth, however, outside elements like waste and runoff can contaminate the water quickly. We protect spring sources from contamination with a simple waterproof cement structure surrounding layers of clay, stone, and soil. This construction channels the spring’s water through a discharge pipe, making water collection easier, faster, and cleaner. Each spring protection also includes a chlorine dispenser at the waterpoint so community members can be assured that the water they are drinking is entirely safe. Learn more here!

A Year Later: More Time for Studying and Helping Mum

February, 2022

A year ago, your generous donation helped Mahira Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Agnettah. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Mahira Community 6.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mahira Community 6 maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

Agnettah N., 10, shared how she felt about collecting water from the spring before its protection last year. "I used to get dirty while fetching water from the spring, and I didn't enjoy fetching water at all."

But since its protection, things have changed for her, and she has gained valuable time to help at home. She said, "I enjoy fetching water from the spring now because it is accessible and clean. Access to clean water has enabled me to help my mum do other chores at home because I no longer waste time queueing at the spring as before."

Best of all, quicker access to clean water has given Agnettah more time to study and hopefully set her up with a brighter future. "It has helped me concentrate more on my studies than I used to."

Agnettah with school teacher Caroline Musava at the spring.

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mahira Community 6 maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Mahira Community 6 – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


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